CONWAY — While admitting that it wasn’t his decision to ultimately make, Ken Richardson was pretty clear about the intentions of Horry County Schools after the district-wide Christmas break.
“We aren’t spending $5 million dollars to leave the children sitting at home,” the HCS Board of Education chairman said at Monday night’s board meeting.
“I would think we would be going back (full-time) after Christmas” break,” Richardson told the Post and Courier ahead of Monday’s board meeting, adding it’s going to be Superintendent Rick Maxey’s “call.”
HCS will soon install at least $5 million worth of plexiglass shields at students’ desks at county schools — a step closer to moving to five days a week of face-to-face instruction at brick-and-mortar schools — as the district prepares for the second semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Maxey, no decision has been made about students returning to school in-person five days per week, but did indicate that the district is preparing to reopen transfers for students wishing to change their type of instruction from either brick-and-mortar schools to HCS Virtual or vice versa.
The district will begin installing plexiglass shields Friday at elementary schools, which, according to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control guidelines, will allow for more students in a classroom. Plexiglass will cost about $2.6 million for elementary schools, officials said.
Installation at all elementary schools is expected by Dec. 23, said Daryl Brown, HCS support services chief officer.
Greenville County schools announced Monday its plans to send middle schoolers back to school in-person full time next week.
“Greenville got a 3-week jump on us as far as getting their plexiglass installed,” Richardson said.
DHEC said in early October that plexiglass installations could allow for shorter distances for social distancing. This means more students could fit into a classroom if plexiglass is installed following proper guidelines.
According to DHEC, students could sit closer than 6 feet apart if “appropriate plexiglass is utilized and distance between students is at least three feet apart, and the students are wearing cloth face coverings or face masks that cover the nose and mouth (the plexiglass does not serve as a substitute to mask-wearing).”
“Plexiglass is considered appropriately sized and utilized if it surrounds three sides (the front and two sides) of the edges of the student’s desk and extends at least a foot above each child’s head when seated at the desk and at least a foot beyond the end of the desk on either side,” according to the DHEC update.
HCS recently ordered 110,000 pieces of plexiglass and frames, which should yield about 22,000 shields for the elementary level. The installation is expected to begin later this week and the district plans to install plexiglass in middle and high schools after elementary installation is complete.
The district has developed a plan for students to have the opportunity to transfer from HCS Virtual to brick-and-mortar or vice versa, Maxey said.
Virtual students will be able to transfer back to brick-and-mortar schools from Dec. 7 to midnight Dec. 14 and students enrolled in brick-and-mortar schools can transfer to HCS Virtual between Dec. 15 to midnight Dec. 22.
“Parents need to make sure they have active email addresses on file with the school through PowerSchool,” Maxey said.
If not, parents and guardians will not get this notice with a link to take action.
No action is needed if students wish to stay in their current form of instruction.
“This is a commitment,” Maxey said. “And when you commit to it, that’s where your child is going to be next semester.”
Maxey warned it is possible for a student’s teacher to change during this process.
Richardson also emphasized that parents who are moving their children back into brick-and-mortar schools need to be prepared that it’s possible students could be going to school in-person more than two days per week.